Tuesday, November 9, 2010 arrived with a clear early morning that promised to become a chilly, sunny, and typically autumn day. I zipped my coat, buckled my helmet strap, unlocked my bike, and headed off to work. A few minutes later, a garbage truck crossed a bike lane to make a right turn. I was in that bike lane. The tires of the truck crushed my left leg and caused other internal injuries. An amazing team of trauma surgeons saved my life, but they had to amputate my leg to do so.

The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. Confucius.

In July 2011, I set off to walk a thousand miles as an above-knee amputee in my new prosthesis. The journey has held more twists, turns, and detours than I ever imagined.

I reached Mile 1000 on March 30, 2013.

But of course, that wasn't the end.

I'll keep walking!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Standing Room Only

Mile Marker 396:

There are days when I will do anything for ice cream.  

Then there are days when I can’t DO ANYTHING.

Today is one of those days.


It began yesterday, but not really.  This struggle's been going on a long, long time.  

About 16 months, I guess.

Yesterday itself wasn’t even that bad.  I mean as far as work days go.    We got two evaluations done, scooped some great gelato for Elvira’s birthday, and arranged services for one of our neediest students.   Productive, really.

But the thing is, I STOOD.

I mean I didn't sit down.  For the whole day.

I perched my laptop on three thick binders so I could reach the keyboard from a standing position.  I hovered over Chase's shoulder so we could collaborate on the wording of a report.  I walked outside to pick up lunch three blocks away.

Prosthetically speaking, it was STANDING ROOM ONLY.

Because each time I tried to SIT, I got a burning, tugging, jabbing pain just below my aptly named "sitz" bone --    that's ischium tuberosity, if you want to get specific.   

Those first few seconds of sitting were bearable.  But then I found myself inching toward the edge of the chair.  Leaning toward my right side.  Skimming the same paragraph on my computer screen over and over again.  Typing in a sentence that made no sense.

Yes, that's Shred!
Each sound in the room distracted me.  The singing from the kindergarten across the hall.  The paper-munching from our ancient shredder we call “Shred.”   

Each time the office phone rang, I jumped up (figuratively, of course) to answer it.

I lost my place twenty times.  Ran errands around the school.  Stopped to check my mailbox in the lobby.

As long as I stood, I avoided that discomfort.  

But unfortunately, even in the high-tech world of prosthetics, the laws of physics apply.  For every action there's an equal and opposite reaction.

By late afternoon, all that standing took its toll.  My right knee and ankle ached with pressure.  The high inner edge of the socket dug into my bikini line.

After an uncomfortable car ride home, I collapsed onto my bed.  I released the suction valve and gently peeled the socket shell away from my burning skin.

Then I burst into tears.

It's not that I saw something horrible.  The raw skin wasn’t any worse than usual.  There was a thin white line created by a new pinch.  And those red bumps I've gotten used to had grown just a bit little bigger.

But at that moment, all the seats were taken.   The feelings had no place to go.

My inner stadium had reached full capacity. 

It was STANDING ROOM ONLY.


Two weeks ago, my dad took a photo of a billboard he and my mom passed on their way to Vermont for my niece Riley’s second birthday.  I couldn’t make the drive that weekend.  If sitting in the car for the 20-minute ride home from work is bad, can you imagine 8 hours?

But if I had been there, this sign would've caught my eye, too.



If you take a close look, it's linked to a website.  I now subscribe, so it sends uplifting “quotes of the day” to my e-mail inbox each morning.  

A few mornings ago, this one from George S. Patton arrived:

Success is how high you bounce when you hit bottom.

I know I’m not at the bottom.  Already, I’ve seen many lower places on this journey.  And I've met friends who've been even lower.

But still, it rang true.

More surgery lies ahead.  More weeks on crutches.  More uncertainty about the future.

Last night, even another day in my prosthesis seemed like too much.


Shortly after my meltdown, the phone rang.   Mom.  (She has a sixth sense, I think...)

“I don’t want to WEAR this anymore,” I told her.  “I don’t want to do any of this.”

I'm sure I sounded like a cranky four-year-old, but she listened, encouraged, and of course reminded me we’re in this together. 

We are.  I have the most supportive family that anyone could ask for.

Between them and the guy on the billboard, I know I haven't completely lost HEART.  

I want my life back.  And I'm willing to work for it.  

But sometimes the stadium just gets too full.


So today I'm resting.  

My little leg is wrapped tightly in its shrinker.  My Genium is plugged in, charging up for another day.  

Like I am, I guess.

I've cancelled out the rest of the week to let these latest wounds heal.

To let the stadium empty a bit.  

To find a place to SIT DOWN.

5 comments:

  1. You do have a supportive family and friends but on certain days, crying might feel best. I get that. Sorry that it has been so difficult. I wish there was something I could do to make it better. I am always here to listen.
    Love you.

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  2. Ricki, I've been having knee problems lately. For the past couple of years it's been my right knee (after a skiing incident), but that's feeling better now and now it's my left knee. From volleyball, I think. It hurts when I get up, hurts when I kneel, hurts when I make a sorry attempt to run. It's puffy and just doesn't feel right. And I HATE it. I hate that I don't know when or if it's going to get better. I feel sorry for myself and wish I could have my old, young body back. I feel like any fitness goals or fun activities are on hold until it gets better. And I realize that this is still NOTHING compared to the permanent and difficult changes you must continue to deal with every single day. I really feel for you, so much. I can't imagine how frustrating and demoralizing days like yesterday must be. Just know that we're all pulling for you, hoping you have as many (or more) good days as bad. Hang in there, Rick! It will get better, just like my knee (I hope!).

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  3. Strength, determination and courage, those formidable and cumbersome commodities that have literally propelled you forward during the past arduous 16 months, can get very heavy to carry around for the long haul. I'm certain that most of us would have dropped them by the wayside long ago, giving in to resignation and defeat. So, it's healthy and necessary to put them down now and then to take a well-deserved rest, wrapped in exhaustion and vulnerability and supported by those who love you. You'll pick them up again and keep walking... and, of course, we'll be right beside you.

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  4. Like Wendy said, my knee problem is so minor compared to what you are going through. Sometimes after sitting at my computer desk all day I get up and hobble to the bathroom and I think, "Damn knee". Maybe if I don't skate/ride/ski it won't feel so bad. But that would giving up. Its much easier to quit than to take steps (sorry for the pun), to make the situation better. And I think, What Would Rebecca Do (WWRD)?

    I went for a third opinion today (in NJ; maybe its our lucky state) and I plan on continuing to skate and ski and possibly ride 75 miles in September.

    Keep inspiring and being inspired.
    WWRD

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  5. I know, I have those melt down days. I come home and cry and get all that stuff (whatever it is) out of my system. After a good cry and a good nights sleep, I feel much better and ready to conquer the world the next day. We are in this together. We are here to support you no matter what the mood. If it is standing room only, we will stand with you and support you until we find a place to sit down.

    ReplyDelete